Pilots at the Amsterdam Airport Schipol were presented with some tough decisions recently when they were faced with some majorly fierce crosswinds while attempting to land KLM 747 airplanes. The incoming air traffic was captured on film and the footage is enough to make your stomach flip a few times.
Several planes were filmed as they were coming in for a landing, and several of them executed different types of maneuvers in order to land successfully. One of the planes is so affected by the wind that it looks as if it’s about to turn sideways right before it lands. In a technique known as the “crab landing,” the pilot brings the plane in sideways to keep the plane lined up with the runway on approach.
British Airline Pilots’ Association Representative and former pilot, Steven Draper, said the following regarding the crab landing approach…
“Landing in strong crosswinds or turbulence goes beyond the capabilities of the airplane’s automatic pilot.”
And while crosswinds and turbulence can be terrifying for passengers, pilots are highly trained in landing during such conditions and believe it or not they are an everyday occurrence.
“A pilot should be alert and free from fatigue when landing, and be given the opportunity to develop excellent handling skills,” said Draper.
The Chief Executive of the UK Flight Safety Committee, Dai Whittingham, weighed in on the video and what the pilots were experiencing. He said that high winds are more of an inconvenience than they are a danger to safety. In this case, the wind direction went across the runway, which made it especially inconvenient, although it may have looked more treacherous than it actually was.
“All pilots train to land in high crosswind conditions and will have practiced to the aircraft limits in the simulator,” said Whittingham. “When any new aircraft is certified to carry passengers it comes with a published crosswind limit, which is the maximum that has been demonstrated by a test pilot during the certification process. In practice, the wind is rarely aligned fully with the runway so there is always a slight crosswind to deal with, it is just the amount of it that varies.”
And while some turbulence might cause some major anxiety in passengers, it is very common and passengers have to keep in mind that the pilots have a forward view, which lessens the feeling of being jolted in all different directions. Passengers, who don’t have the front view, are much more affected by a little turbulence.
Whittingham went on to confirm that there is a briefing prior to all approaches to ensure that both pilots understand the type of approach, what the divisions of duties are and any special considerations.
Evidently, one plane was forced to abandon its landing and soar back into the air in a maneuver called a “go around.”
If you are a nervous flyer, your anxiety may rise just by viewing the video of the planes attempting to land, so watch at your own risk. However; be reassured that pilots are trained for these types of landings.